Rosendall presents award to Councilmember Kathy Patterson

Distinguished Service Award to Councilmember Kathy Patterson

Presented by GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs Richard J. Rosendall

GLAA 32nd Anniversary Reception
Radisson Barcelo Hotel
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Since her election in 1994, Councilmember Kathy Patterson has been a reliable ally of gay citizens and a leading force for government reform and accountability. She stood up to the sleaziest tactics of our former mayor, and made it clear that she would not be intimidated. That particular point may not be gay related, but it is one of the reasons I like her. She knows as well as any of her colleagues that good intentions are not enough to serve your constituents. You've got to be tough. Kathy is always in the thick of the fight.

As chair of the Government Operations Committee from 1997 to 2001, Kathy wrote and secured passage of the law that established the Office of Human Rights as a separate, independent agency. She won more than $500,000 in increased funding for OHR to eliminate its longstanding case backlog and strengthen enforcement of the DC Human Rights Act. She supports giving top priority to discrimination complaints filed by people with AIDS or other major life-threatening diseases. As she puts it, "I have acted to ensure that the law is more than an empty promise." Three years ago, she worked closely with GLAA to persuade Mayor Williams to re-issue an executive order requiring District agencies to reflect the Human Rights Act and all of its protected classes in all non-discrimination notices. Then she supported the funding for a compliance officer to make sure the order is obeyed.

Five years ago, Kathy pushed OHR to prepare the statutory and policy changes needed to regain certification from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a "substantially equivalent agency" eligible for HUD enforcement grants. In June 1998, she introduced legislation to strengthen the District's fair-housing law and bring the District into compliance with HUD requirements. She steered the legislation to enactment and OHR has now qualified for HUD grant funding of $115,000 annually. This action has revived fair-housing education and enforcement in the District after a long period of inactivity.

As chair of the Judiciary Committee for the past two years, Kathy has supported strengthening diversity and sensitivity training in the police and fire departments and establishing an effective Office of Citizen Complaint Review. She introduced the "Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2002," for which her constituent Frank Kameny testified on behalf of GLAA. She never hesitates to take up our concerns with the police chief and fire chief, and she is one of those councilmembers known for her excellent staff work. In fact, her Judiciary Committee staffer, Jason Juffras, is with us here this evening.

Kathy also supports GLAA's concerns on HIV/AIDS policy and equal rights for gay couples and their families. In expressing her support for same-sex marriages, she wrote, "I believe in equal rights for gay and lesbian partners, and I do not see any legitimate basis for any civil authority to question a personal decision made by two consenting adults." But equal marriage rights is still a way off, and Kathy is nothing if not pragmatic. So, noting that gay and lesbian partners lack the protections that heterosexual partners take for granted, she drafted legislation to include domestic partners in the District's Health Care Decisions Act, winning final passage on April 1st.

In short, the Councilmember from Ward 3 is our champion and our friend, and it is my privilege to present this Distinguished Service Award to Kathy Patterson.